Stranger than Fiction

By Jave Harron

Our own reality's a strange enough place. This world, as limited and boring as it might seem, has plenty of bizarre things going on. Many people like to rely on escapist fiction to create alternative worlds if this one may not be as strange. We see plenty of feudal fantasy worlds, galactic space operas, cyberpunk dystopias, and hidden horror stories. But these often have predictable tropes and cliches in them, to the point where they are even more predictable than "real life." Even these genres are dwarfed by what many draw their inspiration from: The strangeness of our reality.

Consider this for a moment: You are likely reading this essay on a machine you can't see the internal mechanisms of, and cannot without a microscope. This machine is linked to countless others by an invisible network that surrounds and connects the world. It is dependent on autonomous machines far above the sky to transmit invisible waves that allow us to communicate with each other almost instantaneously. "Cyberspace" is just a construct for interacting through this network, but people often refer to it as if it was a physical place. That's just the Internet and telecommunications of this era. It's not called the Information Age for nothing. A quick search on Google can easily give you access to any topic you can think of, and then some.

And for transportation, we move around in devices powered by the remains of dead algae put in the pressure cooker of the Earth's crust for millions of years. That allows us to drive, fly, sail, and dive all over the Earth's surface, and beyond. The 'internal combustion engine' that's so common essentially allows us to drive around on a series of continuous explosions.

Yet at the same time, even we are strange. As you read this, the photons emitted by the monitor register in your optic nerve, get flipped upside down, and get recognized as familiar shapes you know as letters. From here, you can think of a whole work, then a sentence, and then an idea. Our own daily lives are full of complicated things without us realizing it.

But we do all of this without thinking after a while. We all know this stuff is regular, right? Wrong. Reality can get a lot stranger, even without taking any quantum physics or strange mysticism into account. So, how strange and interesting can reality get? I intend to cover that in this column.

Reality has a lot of strange things in it. Let's explore some things that can inspire you, your writing, and perhaps even your fictional worlds and characters. There's enough in this world that several lifetimes would be far too short to explore everything. Often times, the best way to explore something is to gain experience at it. Hopefully, this column will show several things that may exist right in your own backyard. Or, things in the past. I will also cover some historical and modern topics that truly are strange, as history is full of interesting people. Hopefully, you'll be one of them.